Local lingo: Place names reflect Snoqualmie Valley’s rural past

Vintage tractors still ply Meadowbrook Farm’s grassy meadows. Meadowbrook was a vast hop ranch prior to a market crash. - Courtesy Photo
Vintage tractors still ply Meadowbrook Farm’s grassy meadows. Meadowbrook was a vast hop ranch prior to a market crash.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

If you can’t tell the Upper Valley from the Lower Valley or don’t know that Tolt and Carnation are the same thing, it’s time to brush up on some Snoqualmie Valley lingo.

People who’ve lived in the Snoqualmie Valley for a fair length of time start to develop their own vocabulary of place names and phrases. Local lingo includes a smattering of history-steeped sayings, ancient words and local slang. The following is just a sample of Valley vocab:

Snoqualmie: Moon’s legacy

The city and river of Snoqualmie is named for the Snoqualmie Tribe, whose members have kept alive their Salish dialect. The term comes from the native term Sdoh-kwahlb, meaning “Moon,” the legendary life source of the tribe. The Snoqualmie Tribe regards Snoqualmie Falls as its birthplace. The spirits of various resources of the Snoqualmie River valley and the spirits of the prairie upstream meet at the falls, forming a sacred site for seeking spirit power.

North Bend, the original Snoqualmie

North Bend, named for its site at the north-turning bend of the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, wasn’t always called North Bend.

When pioneer William Henry Taylor laid out the town in 1889, he named it Snoqualmie. When the nearby community of Snoqualmie Falls was created by the Snoqualmie Land and Improvement Company closer to the falls, the confusion prompted a name change—in those days, all-powerful railroads didn’t want two Snoqualmies to muck things up. The “original” Snoqualmie changed to South Fork and Mountain View before settling on North Bend.

City of the Falls

Today’s Fall City was originally a Snoqualmie village called Yelhw. When whites came, they built two forts and a trading settlement and steamboat landing with traffic based on the river, which was navigable by boats up to the Falls. The site was referred to as “The Landing.” While there is no official version of how Fall City got its name, local historian Jack Kelley believes it stemmed from the proximity of Snoqualmie Falls. The town at its foot was the “Falls City,” later shortened to Fall City.

Carnation or Tolt?

Once known as Tolt, the community of Carnation was named for the world-famous dairy, Carnation Farm, which located there in 1910. Tolt comes from the Snoqualmie word “Tolthue,” or “river of swift waters. In 1917, the city chose to honor the farm with the name change. The world-famous farm was a major milk producer and shipped cows world-wide. However, the community had a change of heart 11 years later and decided to change the name back to Tolt. By then, Carnation had stuck, and two names co-existed in some confusion for decades. In 1951, the city renamed itself Carnation yet again. The former Carnation farm became Camp Korey, a retreat for children dealing with illness, in 2007.

Meadowbrook’s heyday

Locals refer to the 460-acre park and open space between North Bend and Snoqualmie as Meadowbrook Farm or simply Meadowbrook. The site includes trails, an interpretive center, open fields that are host to special events, and a big elk herd that can often be seen from neighboring roads. Pioneer Jeremiah Borst, the first caucasian in the Valley, homesteaded at Meadowbrook. At one time, the farm was part of the world’s largest ranch for hops, a plant whose buds are a key ingredient in beer. After the hop market crashed around the turn of the century, new proprietors came and went at the farm, including two men named Chamberlain and Hamilton, who gave the place its current name. The land was sold to developers in the 1960s, but the cities of North Bend and Snoqualmie took control to preserve the open spaces in 1996.

The Groves

The Snoqualmie Valley has long attracted tourists and sightseers. During the early part of the 20th century, the Valley was a mecca for travelers in automobiles, many of whom needed an inexpensive place to stay. Cabins and campgrounds popped up to serve them, and two place names near North Bend commemorate two of these campgrounds.

Ernie’s Grove is a place name that refers to the area north of town, off 428th Avenue Southeast, while Maloney’s Grove describes the neighborhood at the end of 424th Avenue Southeast near Interstate 90.

Little is remembered of the original “Ernie.” Snoqualmie historian Dave Battey says some old-timers knew Ernie, but don’t recall his last name. But his cabins were located in a grove of stately old-growth timber near the Snoqualmie River’s north fork.

More is known about Maloney Grove, a premier camping resort that existed 1913 until the 1950s. Peter J. Maloney operated it as a place for camping, picnics, ball games, miniature golf, fishing and other amusements. Maloney was the first mayor of North Bend, and helped build the Snoqualmie train depot and the North Bend Church.

Qualley’s Corner

As travelers on Highway 203 go through the Fall City roundabout toward Carnation, they soon enter a curving, rural stretch. The highway curve is informally known as Qualley’s Corner, for the family of Cornelius and Minnie Qualley, who lived there. Tolt Historical Society President Isabel Jones recalls learning to drive on the road, which was gravel and had a 35-mph speed limit, in 1939.

Over the hump

Some older residents had their own special slang referring to Snoqualmie Pass. According to Carnation resident Jackie Perrigoue, truck drivers often referred to climbing the pass as “Going over the hump.”

Her father, who lived in Carnation, also generally referred to visiting the Upper Valley as “going ‘Up Above.’”

Up or down?

The phrases “upper” and “lower” Valley gauge towns in relation to Snoqualmie Falls. North Bend and Snoqualmie are above the Falls, and so are in the “Upper Valley.” Carnation and Fall City are below the Falls, and so are in the “Lower Valley.”

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